Dispatches From A Bleak Kingdom

One of the tomb mounds in the snow at the city's heart. These tumuli also double as hobbit holes, but you are not supposed to walk on them. As you can tell, some enterprising individuals ignored this unwritten rule, and because I was once yelled at for climbing one of these man-made treasure-laden hills, I am tempted to start screaming about oolee nala and the beauty of our culture the moment I even see a tomb mound---much less a tomb mound that is being scaled by kids who have nowhere else to go if they want to sled.

One of the tomb mounds in the snow at the city’s heart. These tumuli also double as hobbit holes, but you are not supposed to walk on them. As you can tell, some enterprising individuals ignored this unwritten rule, and because I was once yelled at for climbing one of these man-made treasure-laden hills, I am tempted to start screaming about oolee nala and the beauty of our culture the moment I even see a tomb mound—much less a tomb mound that is being scaled by kids who have nowhere else to go if they want to sled.

A monastery made of tenements lost amid the tenements at sundown.

A monastery made of tenements lost amid the tenements at sundown.

Traditional Korean Clothes For Rent.

Traditional Korean Clothes For Rent.

Ostriches looking desperate to escape a very small pen beside a pagoda built by the Japanese imperialists to protect their trains. This day, like all the others depicted in this post, was freezing cold.

Ostriches looking desperate to escape a very small pen beside a pagoda built by the Japanese imperialists/colonials/civilizers (depending on your perspective) to protect their trains. This day, like all the others depicted in this post, was freezing cold.

My kitschometer exploded when I poked my head in through a gate and found this place, a two-minute walk from my apartment.

My kitschometer exploded when I poked my head in through a gate and found this place, a two-minute walk from my apartment.

Vast new Iaan Apartments on the outskirts of town. I can imagine the architects approving their construction: "They're ugly!" "They're soulless!" "We can knock 'em down in fifteen years!" "We love 'em!" Iaan is wired so that when you drive in through the gate a computer inside your home beeps to let anyone else who is around know that you've arrived. Buzzers don't buzz but play long synthesized ditties, the doors tell you that they've been closed when they'e been closed, but if you open a window and listen you can hear cows mooing outside.

Vast new Iaan Apartments on the outskirts of town. I can imagine the architects approving their construction: “They’re ugly!” “They’re soulless!” “We can knock ’em down in fifteen years!” “We love ’em!” Iaan is wired so that when you drive in through the gate a computer monitor attached to a wall inside your apartment beeps to let anyone else who is around know that you’ve arrived. Buzzers don’t buzz but play long synthesized ditties, the doors tell you that they’ve been closed when they’e been closed (and they conjugate their verbs slavishly, because in Korean machines must always show the utmost respect for human beings), but if you open a window and listen you can hear cows mooing outside. Each individual apartment is worth as much as a nice big house in the country back in America.

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